When God says “Pay Attention”: Times In Between

Last fall when I began this blog, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t buying school supplies. Fast forward 12 months, and I’ve just returned from the school supply aisles of Walmart with a blue Five Star 3-subject notebook and new pens—the minimal school supplies I’ve realized are necessary. In nine days, I will begin yet another first day of school to earn my M.A. in American and English literature. 17th grade? Freshman year of grad school? I don’t know if there is a correct term, but I do know it’s another new beginning. And with every new beginning in my life so far, I’ve ended up thinking back to what I’ve learned from the “in between”—a place that is anything but dull.

This last “in between” year has been one of constant challenges and personal growth. I feel like I have been tested, and I definitely don’t feel like I passed with flying colors—quite the opposite actually. Have you ever read the passage in Romans 7 when Paul seems to be talking in circles?

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It’s crazy confusing right? At least I always thought so until I found myself in the exact same situation. I was alternately overwhelmed with guilt and a profound rebelliousness that I had never before experienced. There is no possible way to bring these two opposite reactions into an equilibrium. Then I read Paul’s words again. And it hit me—finally.

Life isn’t simply black and white with a little gray area. It’s full of an array of colors and decisions waiting to be made that can be combined into gorgeous hues—green emerging from blue and yellow, purple from red and blue. Or, something drastically different can happen. Remember in elementary school when you mixed every paint color together and ended up with a strange color similar to brown, purple, and mud? With so many options mixed together, a strange, dark, indescribable color is created. I think this was the direction I was headed.

But as Paul says, now I am working to delight in God’s law even when it feels like sin is waging a war within me. Because of Jesus, I will not be overwhelmed or defeated—but only if I continually choose Him from among the barrage of options in this world. I want my life to be a work of art created by God and not a mud-colored, goo-covered finger painting that I try to take control of and create on my own.

So, another new beginning. Another reminder that life is made up of changes, struggles, and choices. But I know that God is the same always and forever, and I love His promises in Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” My “in between” times always feel like wastelands, and in some ways, maybe all our lives are lived in these spaces in between. I don’t know about you, but this promise gives me hope for new beginnings, and a challenge to pay attention next time God asks “Do you not perceive it?”

new thing